Dave Hildebrandt (MI-86) may still have a term left (and some mighty big decisions ahead of him), but that hasn’t stopped the speculation and positioning. Peter Bratt calls attention to one early entry: Jordan Bush, a lawyer and supporter of Rep. Justin Amash (MI-72). The Amash support clearly suggests that Bush will be running from the economic right. Indeed, the “into the wilderness” style of the present day GOP practically guarantees this outcome. But should he?
To understand the question, we first have to take a look at the district itself (the map — courtesy of Bratt — is below the fold). This is the leftover district from the last redistricting, the jelly between the northern MI-73 (Pearce) and the southern Grand Rapids / Kentwood districts (MI-75, MI-76, and MI-72). On the west, it takes in Walker and the Riverside neighborhood of Grand Rapids; on the east, it picks up EGR, Ada and Grand Rapids Townships. Further out it includes Lowell, Vergennes, Bowne and Grattan.
This physical arrangement is also demarcated by different political flavors: the west gives much stronger support to social conservative causes; the east side is reliably in the economic conservative camp, verging to the libertarian. A real money v. commitment split. Formally the division within the district is between CC-6 (Tanis) and CC-11 (Agee); a more practical split is to divide the district in terms of the E Beltline, east or west.
Given this division what chance does our Mr. Bush have?
The economic downturn suggests something of the headwind economic conservatives may face (and why the Walkerites may want to consider a run). Using home foreclosures as a measure of relative economic distress we find the following split:
Walker (49534, 49544): 34
GR Twp (49525, west of the Beltline): 14
EGR (49506): 14
GR Twp (49525, east of the Beltline): 3
Ada (49301): 17
It may very be that the economic conservatives will still triumph over the district. The desire for purity beats strong within them. That said, the stress of economic pain does open the way for those who would emphasize the cultural issues. Of course, their willingness to go to the edge culturally or economically further helps a prospective Democratic run. The pain on the west side of the district opens a door a crack for issues such as educational reform (on this, think of the district as Kenowa and Northview versus Forest Hills).
One thing is for certain, in an open seat run, there will be plenty of openings for new views (and new candidates).